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End of the dusty trail: A final drive in the Toyota Land Cruiser

Heritage Edition off-highway model bows out as next generation bypasses the US

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Toyota Land Cruiser turned 70 in 2021, and the Japanese automaker is celebrating with a total revamp of the full-scale SUV for 2022.  Just one problem, at least for US drivers – the new Land Cruiser won’t be coming here.

Importation of the Land Cruiser to the US ends this year, with apparently no plans to sell the new version on these shores.  There is some speculation that the new Land Cruiser might come back as a Lexus model, but that’s up in the air.  Toyota has been playing the whole issue close to the vest, to borrow a poker term, so who knows. 

land cruiser, End of the dusty trail: A final drive in the Toyota Land Cruiser, ClassicCars.com Journal

Whatever the case, the big, beefy Land Cruiser as we know it will be going away, replaced by a lighter, tighter and more fuel-efficient model.  The new Land Cruiser sheds 440 pounds while maintaining its overall dimensions, and the long-lived 381-horsepower V8 engine will be replaced by a twin-turbo V6 with more power.  Too bad we won’t be seeing it.

While Land Cruiser roars in popularity around the world, particularly in southeast Asia, Australia and Africa, sales have been weak in the US.  Part of the blame can be placed on the Toyota’s significant price tag here, hitting $90,000 for a typical model, while coming up against strong domestic competition from Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Jeep, as well as on the high end by Range Rover from the UK.

Toyota also has internal competition with its own full-size Sequoia SUV.

land cruiser

So the 2021 Land Cruiser is the last of the breed, and I am gratified that I got to spend much quality time with two different versions.  I recently rode in a fully equipped luxury model with ClassicCars.com Journal co-editor Larry Edsall at the wheel from Las Vegas to Seaside, California, for the Monterey Car Week festivities. 

While much of that was highway driving, which of course was seamless, we also drove from Paso Robles, California, to Monterey via winding Highway 1 along the coastline.  Gorgeous scenery, and the plus-size wagon handled the curves admirably. I believe Larry was most-impressed by the small refrigerator built into the console, where he stashed his sodas.

land cruiser
The retro emblem on the Hertiage Edition

My second shot came a couple weeks later when I drove a Land Cruiser Heritage Edition, which was better set up for off-road adventuring, most apparent from the bold Yakima basket rack perched on its roof.   A retro Heritage Edition badge adorned its C pillar.

My plan was to take this indomitable off-roader onto some tough desert terrain.  But alas, I was thwarted by two factors:  heavy rains during a week prior (a rarity in Arizona, but it does happen) had caused trails to turn treacherous (the Forest Service closed off my favorite one), and the Land Cruiser was shod with highway tires.

land cruiser

Oh well, I made the best of it by choosing instead a rustic desert road that’s favored by quad, dirt-bike and ATV riders.  There were some challenging washed-out sections and a few steep grades, but nothing that the Land Cruiser couldn’t shrug off easily.

Although the two Land Cruisers were a variation on a theme, they were both fully equipped with all the top luxury and technology features, yet they were slightly different in presentation. Larry’s highway cruiser had such things as running boards, 8-passenger seating, a rear-seat entertainment system and that console refrigerator.  The one I drove was more focused on being an all-purpose highway/off-road explorer, sans fridge.

land cruiser, End of the dusty trail: A final drive in the Toyota Land Cruiser, ClassicCars.com Journal

One thing the divergent Land Cruiser twins did have in common: they each cost $90,000-plus.  Now, these are super-nice luxury SUVs loaded with fine features and the latest gadgets for safety, convenience and drivability. They run great and, when properly outfitted, will go practically anywhere.

But 90 grand is exclusive territory, and that price tag no doubt excluded plenty of would-be buyers.  More the pity, because we won’t be seeing what sounds like a terrific update of this enduring favorite.

2021 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition

Vehicle type: 5-passenger sport utility vehicle, 4-wheel drive

Base price: $87,845 Price as tested: $90,089

Engine: 5,7-liter V8, 381 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm, 401 pound-feet of torque @ 3,600 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 112.2 inches Overall length/width: 194.9 inches / 77.95 inches

Curb weight: 5,815 pounds

EPA mileage estimates: 13 city / 17 highway / 14 combined

Assembled in: Aichi, Japan

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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